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When our son Ethan was in his late teens and still living at home, starting at about 11pm, he would disengage from his computer, wander out to the kitchen and start talking. Of course at this time of night, I was ready to call it a day and head off to bed. But as a parent, when your teenage son willingly engages in conversation with you, it’s an opportunity not to be passed up even if it means a couple of hours less sleep that night.

Even though he is now 24, his biorhythms still seem to be in the same pattern because in his most recent letter from basic training, he noted that the time was 2300 hours and he was at the point in the night where he can talk and talk and talk. I’m sure the drill sergeants have emphatically and colorfully made the point to the recruits that they are not their mothers, so without someone to babble to, Ethan’s only option was to put his ramblings in writing. Hence, we received a lengthy letter from him.

His letter chronicled the roller coaster of his emotional ups and downs – he succeeded at the “Confidence Climb” which is scaling up and down a 30 foot wall unassisted but failed the most recent PT test because he was three sit ups short of the required number. He explained that a couple of things could happen: he could just re-test, he could be sent to a dreaded “fat camp” even though he’s not fat; or the most drastic and scary scenario, he would be recycled through basic training and lose his MOS or specialty.

As Ethan put it, his “skill set is entirely unsuited to basic training because it’s a place that smart really doesn’t count for much.” But what we read about the way he reacted made us very proud. He is determined in a way we have never seen before and the attitude that our downsizing army is looking for. “If they want me out of the army, they are going to have to carry me off the base.”

Apparently, some drill sergeants are still up at 11pm because there was a break in the middle of the letter where Ethan said he had just discussed the physical training and testing issue with him. After their “chat” about what might happen, the drill sergeant gave Ethan what counts for high praise in BCT; the drill sergeant said to him, “You’re not a ****bag soldier.”

He wrapped up the letter saying he was feeling up and that “My career looks good.” Awesome.

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